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MHS asks COVID-19 recovered to donate plasma for seriously ill

Woman wearing mask and PPE holding a bag of plasma Sarahi Wilson, a phlebotomist assigned to Naval Medical Center San Diego, sets up an apheresis machine for drawing plasma at NMCSD’s Blood Donation Center July 14. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Erwin Jacob V. Miciano)

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The COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma (CCP) Collection Program is a Department of Defense effort to collect 10,000 units of CCP donated by members of the military community who have recovered from the disease. CCP will be used to treat critically ill patients and to support the development of an effective treatment against the disease. Eligible donors should contact the Armed Services Blood Program at https://www.militaryblood.dod.mil/Donors/COVID-19andBloodDonation.aspx to find a complete list of available collection centers.

Patients who have recovered from COVID-19 can expect a call from a military hospital or from the Armed Services Blood Program alerting them of the opportunity to donate their plasma to help critically ill patients recover. The calls are part of the Military Health System response to the pandemic.

“The ASBP celebrates those who have fully recovered from COVID-19. We are asking for you to consider donating plasma via apheresis or whole blood donation process to help give others a fighting chance,” said Army Col. Audra L. Taylor, ASBP division chief.

Blood collection agencies such as the Blood Centers of America, the American Red Cross, and the ASBP are collecting COVID-19 convalescent plasma, or CCP. Plasma collections based on MHS outreach follow safety guidelines set by the Food and Drug Administration.

The ASBP provides blood products to the MHS and helps meet demand within the Department of Defense, said Army Col. Jason Corley, director of the Army Blood Program. The CCP collected will help beneficiaries within the MHS, but it’s also a readiness issue, he said.

“If a donor donates today, it [the plasma] could be used in one of our garrison hospitals, or it could be sent aboard a Navy ship or to our forces in U.S. Central Command to make sure they have it on hand and are medically ready,” said Corley. Frozen plasma can last up to one year, he added. “It’s definitely a way to treat the force and protect the force.”

Representatives from military hospitals and the ASBP are calling recovered patients to inform them about donating plasma and explain donation requirements. Potential donors who have recovered from COVID-19 must be symptom-free for at least 14 days since they were last tested positive. The ASBP will test the donated plasma for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, antibodies and alert the donor with a written letter about the presence of such antibodies, Corley added. Those who are eligible may donate whole blood every eight weeks or plasma by apheresis more frequently based on blood donor center guidance and donor qualification.

The ASBP is collecting CCP donations at nearly all of its donor centers with the exception of the Pentagon Blood Donor Center. Donating plasma can take anywhere between 45 and 90 minutes, producing two to three units from one visit. Anyone who has questions about the MHS outreach effort to collect donated COVID-19 convalescent plasma can contact their local blood center by visiting the ASBP website.

“For those who have donated, whether for CCP or regular blood donations, we at the ASBP want to sincerely thank you for taking time to do that,” said Corley. “We encourage everyone, regardless of whether you’ve been COVID-positive or not, if you're interested in blood donation, please reach out to us. We always need help and we couldn't do this without our volunteers.”

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